Actional Refreshes its Web Services Platform

Actional said Monday that it has upgraded its Web services management platform
across the board, adding XML firewall capabilities for SOAPstation, the company’s Web services broker, and adding self-healing server automation and a browser-based dashboard.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based Actional makes Web services management products to help systems administrators guide their software-as-a-service processes to success in
such functions as e-commerce or supply chain management.

The company’s
platform is now in its fifth iteration, with SOAPstation as the cornerstone,
guiding the interactions between applications providing Web services and the
systems that build on them. The vendor has crafted a different version of
the message brokering product, called SOAPstation Edge.

James Philips, chief strategist and senior vice president of products and
marketing at Actional, said the Edge adds XML firewall features to the
company platform, providing customers with a more secure product at a strong
value proposition. SOAPstation Edge improves service network performance by
parsing an in-flight XML document one time and eliminates a hop in the flow
of that message, Philips said.

Normally, Philips told, a customer buying a Web
services platform has to also purchase an XML Firewall to secure it from a
separate vendor, such as Reactivity. By bundling the firewall with the
SoapStation broker, Actional is significantly boosting the product’s value
proposition adding message verification integrity, message privacy and
authentication and authorization.

The refresh also includes the latest version of the company’s broker,
Actional SOAPstation 5.0, Actional Looking Glass 5.0, updates to its line of
Actional Active Agents. One of the major software aspects in Version 5.0 is
the Service Stabilizer, which manages, or “self-heals,” itself.

That is to say, the product weeds out what Philips called the undesirable
Web service and service-based application conditions before they wreak havoc
on the network. For example, these actions could include a change in message
routing rules, provisioning of additional service capacity with updates to a
load balancer or changes in security

When conditions return to normal, another set of pre-defined actions can
unwind previous measures to resume normal operations. Such technology is
becoming increasingly prevalent in Web services platforms, including
offerings from IBM and Microsoft.

Philips said the Actional Looking GlassMyServicesPortal is a browser-based
dashboard that makes it possible for users to customize their views of Web
services processes. With it, an end user can monitor service level
agreements or their top 10 customers in real time.

Judith Hurtwitz, analyst and founder of Hurwitz Group, called Actional’s
platform improvements and new products impressive, noting that the company
is as advanced as any standalone Web services platform provider because of
its breadth of products, which she said are perhaps only outdone by IBM and

Hurwitz credits Actional’s technological sophistication to its acquisition
of Visual Edge years ago.

“They really have a broad platform,” Hurwtiz said. “They have the components
to power a highly-distributed, architected environment. I think a problem
with a lot of these Web services platforms is they took one small piece of
the puzzle, which is pretty typical of any new space; a company gets a
foothold and looks to grow and make something big. But Actional has created
several components and they have strong partnerships with BEA and Microsoft,
which definitely gives them an advantage.”

Actional 5.0 is currently in beta and will be generally available in
November 2003.

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